I have very few life-rules – rules by which I lead my life. And fewer still to which I actually adhere. But there is one rule that has generally served me well – never go back!
Never revisit old relationships. Never imagine you might rekindle old feelings. Never try to relive past experiences. Never suppose you can recapture past emotions. You cannot ever be your former self. You can only ever be that which has been formed.
There are many lessons to be learned from the past. But the first among these is that the past is a land to which we can never return.
Oh! And never follow ex-leaders! It’s only a few weeks since Gordon Wilson was advising us that we should dig in for a protracted campaign of up to twenty years before contemplating another independence referendum. Now he urges us to immediately reinstate the old Yes campaign. Those who heeded his earlier advice and went into hibernation now face a rude awakening.
The Yes campaign was a truly wondrous thing. A massive, organic, grass-roots political up-swelling that may be without parallel in modern times. A movement built on a simple but enormously powerful message of hope, and the conviction that we could each make a difference. And we did make a difference. The Yes campaign transformed those who were immersed in it. It changed all who were touched by it. It made Scotland a different place. It fundamentally reshaped our political culture. It altered the very nature of Scotland’s independence movement.
We must cherish the legacy of the Yes movement. We must foster the engagement that it engendered. But it is not that time and this is not that Scotland. We are not those people any more. We are the people who came through that remarkable period. We are the people who lived that experience. We are the people who have been formed by it.
We need a completely new Yes movement. A movement in which the experience of our previous efforts informs the way we address the current political realities. A movement that replaces the naivety of the first campaign – when we did stuff because nobody knew we couldn’t – with the cold calculation born of knowing precisely what we are capable of. Not to mention what sordid tactics tour opponents will resort to.
Outwardly, this new Yes movement may be barely distinguishable from what went before. Let there be marches and rallies and street-stalls and flash-mobs and badges and posters and town-hall meetings and a proliferation of online campaigning. But behind all of this let there be a sharp awareness of the practicalities involved in achieving our aims. Let’s preserve the joyousness and good humour that characterised the first Yes campaign. But let that be the façade to an underlying pragmatism, hard professionalism and unrelenting determination.
This time it’s serious! We need an iron resolve. We cannot contemplate failure. We must be prepared, not only to work as we never have before, but to set aside much of our personal politics for the duration. We need to put all our weight behind our First Minister and the Scottish Government. We cannot afford to dissipate our energies fighting diverse campaigns, often at cross-purposes with one another.
To be effective, a political campaign must not only win the support of the people, it must bring the force of their democratic will to bear on established power in a way which gives it effect. I use the analogy of a spear. The spear of the new Yes movement needs the strength of the people of Scotland as the arm which throws it; and the shaft of a well-organised campaign to direct it. But, ultimately, it relies on the weight of the head and the sharpness of the point to bring that force to bear on the armour of the British political establishment.
The SNP is our spearhead. It’s the only one we have. It’s the one that we have fashioned for our purpose. I am firmly persuaded that, if we hope to win our independence at this time, the new Yes movement must unite solidly, explicitly and unapologetically behind the SNP in a way that did not happen before.
I want to make history, not live in it. We have the will. We have the opportunity. We have the tools. Let’s put them to work.Views: 5952
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